The Red River, or sometimes the Red River of the South, is a major river in the southern United States of America. It was named for the red-bed country of its watershed. It is one of several rivers with that name. Although it was once a tributary of the Mississippi River, the Red River is now a tributary of the Atchafalaya River, a distributary of the Mississippi that flows separately into the Gulf of Mexico. It is connected to the Mississippi River by the Old River Control Structure.
The Red River is the second-largest river basin in the southern Great Plains. It rises in two branches in the Texas Panhandle and flows east, where it acts as the border between the states of Texas and Oklahoma. It forms a short border between Texas and Arkansas before entering Arkansas, turning south near Fulton, Arkansas, and flowing into Louisiana, where it flows into the Atchafalaya River. The total length of the river is 1,360 miles (2,190 km), with a mean flow of over 57,000 cubic feet per second (1,600 m3/s) at the mouth.
Rivière Rouge (former French name), Río Colorado (former Spanish name)
Red River looking east, north of Bonham, Texas: Texas is to the right, Oklahoma is on the left, and the border between the two states runs along the south (right) bank of the river.
Map of the Red River watershed
|States||Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana|
|- location||Harmon County, Oklahoma|
|- elevation||1,535 ft (468 m)|
|30 ft (9.1 m)|
|Length||1,360 mi (2,190 km)|
|Basin size||65,595 sq mi (169,890 km2)|
|- location||mouth; max and min at Alexandria, LA|
|- average||57,000 cu ft/s (1,600 m3/s)|
|- minimum||1,472 cu ft/s (41.7 m3/s)|
|- maximum||233,000 cu ft/s (6,600 m3/s)|
The Red River rises near the edge of the northwestern dip slope of the Llano Estacado mesa in two forks in northern Texas and southwestern Oklahoma. The North Fork Red River meets the southern and largest fork near the Texas–Oklahoma border. The southern fork, which is about 120 miles (190 km) long, is generally called the Prairie Dog Town Fork. It is formed in Randall County, Texas, near the county seat of Canyon, by the confluence of Tierra Blanca Creek and intermittent Palo Duro Creek (Not to be confused with another Palo Duro Creek 75 miles to the north which drains into the North Canadian River).
The Red River turns and flows southeast through Palo Duro Canyon in Palo Duro Canyon State Park at an elevation of 3,440 feet (1,050 m), then past Newlin, Texas, to meet the Oklahoma state line. Past that point, it is generally considered the main stem of the Red River. Near Elmer, Oklahoma, the North Fork finally joins, and the river proceeds to follow a winding course east through one of the most arid parts of the Great Plains, receiving the Wichita River as it passes the city of Wichita Falls. Near Denison, the river exits the eastern end of Lake Texoma, a reservoir formed by the Denison Dam. The lake is also fed by the Washita River from the north.
Soon after, the river crosses south into Louisiana. The sister cities of Shreveport and Bossier City were developed on either bank of the river, as were the downriver cities of Alexandria and Pineville. Where it is joined by the Ouachita River, its largest tributary, the river later broadens into a complex network of marshlands surrounding the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. Its waters eventually discharge into the Atchafalaya River and flow eastward or southward into the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1946, the Red River flood spilled over into Pineville because of insufficient levee height and strength. However, the taller and stronger levee held in Alexandria. Willie E. Kees Jr., the newly elected mayor of Pineville, worked to gain support for the Corps of Engineers to increase the height of the levee on the eastern side of the river to equal that in Alexandria.
Tributaries include the Little Red River, Prairie Dog Town Fork Red River, Salt Fork Red River, North Fork Red River, Pease River, Washita River, Kiamichi River, Little Wichita River, Little River, Sulphur River, Loggy Bayou (through Lake Bistineau and Dorcheat Bayou) as well as the Ouachita River (also known as the Black River at that point) not far (at Acme, Louisiana) from the mouth.
The Red River is a saltwater river. The saltiness is caused by a natural phenomenon that dates back to ancient times. About 250 million years ago, an inland sea blanketed parts of what is now those states. As time passed, that sea evaporated, leaving salt deposits — mostly sodium chloride. Rock and silt eventually buried the deposits, but the salt continues to leech through natural seeps in tributaries above Lake Texoma, sending as much as 3,450 tons of salt per day flowing down the Red River. The problem with the water in the Red River is much of it is too salty and requires costly treatment, if it is usable at all.
The Red River's watershed covers 65,590 square miles (169,900 km2) and is the southernmost major river system in the Great Plains. Its drainage basin is mostly in the states of Texas and Oklahoma, but also covers parts of New Mexico, Arkansas and Louisiana. Its basin is characterized by flat, fertile agricultural land, with only a few major cities. The drainage basin of the Red River is very arid and receives little precipitation. As a result, much of the river above the Texas–Oklahoma border is intermittent, and until the river is past its great bend south in Arkansas, the flow varies widely. Most of the agriculture in the basin is sustained by groundwater, which is recharged with rainfall and riverflow. The lower course of the river flows through a series of marshes and swamps, where its flow is dramatically moderated.
Native American cultures along the river were diverse, developing specialized adaptations to the many different environments. By the time of European contact, the eastern Piney Woods were dominated by the numerous historic tribes of the Caddoan Confederacy. They found plentiful game and fish, and also had good land for cultivating staple crops. The middle part of the Red River was dominated by Wichita and Tonkawa. This area was prairie, where Native Americans constructed portable and temporary tepees for housing. They practiced limited farming and followed game in seasonal, nomadic hunting cycles. The Plains division of the Lipan Apache dominated the western Red River area until the 18th century, when they were displaced by invading Comanche from the north.
In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Red River Expedition to explore parts of the new lands of the Louisiana Purchase by traveling up the Red River. He said it was "in truth, next to the Missouri, the most interesting water of the Mississippi", in a letter to William Dunbar. Having threaded the maze of bayous at the river's confluence, and the "Great Raft" of lodged driftwood, the expedition was stopped by the Spanish near what is now New Boston, Texas.
In 1806, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, under orders to ascertain the source of the Red River, ascended the Arkansas River, made his way downstream on what turned out to be the Rio Grande, and was sent home by the Spanish authorities. A more successful exploration of the river's upper reaches to both its sources was the 1852 expedition under Capt. Randolph Barnes Marcy, assisted by Brevet Capt. George B. McClellan. A decade later McClellan was an important general in the American Civil War.
In April 1815, Captain Henry Miller Shreve was the first person to bring a steamboat, the Enterprise, up the Red River. Fulton and Livingston, who claimed the exclusive right to navigate Louisiana waters by steamboat, sued Shreve in the District Court of New Orleans. The judge ruled that the monopoly claimed by the plaintiffs was illegal. That decision, along with a similar outcome in Gibbons v. Ogden freed navigation on every river, lake or harbor in the United States from interference by monopolies.
When John Quincy Adams became Secretary of State in 1817, one of his highest priorities was to negotiate the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase with Spain. He negotiated with the Spanish Minister to the United States, Luis de Onis, and finally concluded the Adams–Onis Treaty, also known as the Treaty of 1819. The treaty defined the south bank of the river as the boundary between the United States and Spain. That boundary continued to be recognized when Mexico gained its independence from Spain, then again when Texas became independent from Mexico. It remained so  until the United States Congress consented to the Red River Boundary Compact adopted by the states of Oklahoma and Texas, which set the jurisdictional boundary between Texas and Oklahoma at the vegetation line on the south bank, but left title of adjacent property owners at the south bank.
The Red River Campaign (March–May 1864) was fought along the Red River Valley in Louisiana during the American Civil War. It was a failed attempt by the Union to occupy eastern Texas. Confederate commander Richard Taylor was able to repel an army under Nathaniel Banks three times bigger than his own.
In Louisiana, the area of present-day Natchitoches Parish was settled by French Creole and mixed-race Louisiana Creole people, starting before 1800. The Cane River National Heritage Area marks this area of influence, with plantations and churches founded by Louisiana Creoles. Some of the sites are designated as destinations on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail, designed in the 21st century. For nearly 100 years after the American Civil War, some of the plantations were the center of a large African American and Creole community, whose people lived and worked in this area for generations.
The area along the lower Red River of Grant Parish, Louisiana and neighboring parishes were a mixture of hill country and cotton plantations, with white planters and subsistence farmers, and numerous African American slaves working the plantations in the ante bellum years. It was an area of heated social tensions and insurgency during and after the Reconstruction era. Grant was a new parish created by the Reconstruction legislature, with the goal of increasing Republican Party representation. In 1873, Grant Parish was the site of the Colfax massacre, caused by political tension and violence arising from the disputed 1872 gubernatorial election and efforts by local whites to maintain white supremacy. White militias, organized from nearby parishes, killed more than 100 freedmen, some of whom had surrendered as prisoners.
In 1874, such militias organized as the White League in Grant Parish and other chapters were soon founded across the state. The Coushatta Massacre was attributed to the White League, which attacked Republican office holders to run them out of office. The paramilitary groups intimidated and terrorized freedmen to keep them from the polls, and by the late 1870s, conservative Democrats had retaken political control of the state.
In the early 19th century, settlers found that much of the river's length in Louisiana was unnavigable because of a collection of fallen trees that formed a "Great Raft" over 160 miles (260 km) long. Captain Henry Miller Shreve began clearing the log jam in 1839. The log jam was not completely cleared until the 1870s, when dynamite became available. The river was thereafter navigable, but north of Natchitoches it was restricted to small craft. Removal of the raft further connected the Red and Atchafalaya rivers, accelerating the development of the Atchafalaya River channel.
In the 20th century, the interest group known as the Red River Valley Association was formed to lobby the United States Congress to make the river fully navigable between Alexandria and Shreveport, Louisiana. Leading supporters of the longstanding project were Louisiana Democratic senators Allen J. Ellender, J. Bennett Johnston and Russell B. Long, the Fourth District Congressman Joe Waggonner, and the late Shreveport Mayor Calhoun Allen. With the completion of the project, a lock system constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers allowed navigation of barge traffic as far north as Shreveport.
Specialists debate whether the North Fork or the Prairie Dog Town Fork is the true stem. Because of a cartographic error, the land between the north and south forks was claimed by both the state of Texas and the United States federal government. Randolph B. Marcy's expedition followed the Prairie Dog Town Fork in 1852. Originally called Greer County, Texas, the US Supreme Court ruled that it belonged to the United States, which at the time oversaw the Oklahoma Territory. That territory was later incorporated into the state of Oklahoma, whose southern border now follows the south fork. Today, the southern Prairie Dog Town Fork is considered the main fork, though the North Fork is as long and normally has a greater water flow.
In 1943, Denison Dam was built on the Red River to form Lake Texoma, a large reservoir of 89,000 acres (360 km2), some 70 miles (110 km) north of Dallas. Other reservoirs on the river's tributaries serve as flood control.
The Ark-La-Tex region (a portmanteau of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas; also stylized as Arklatex, ArkLaTex, or more inclusively Arklatexoma) is a U.S. socio-economic region where the 4 Southern states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma abut. The region contains portions of Northwest Louisiana, Northeast Texas, South Arkansas, and the Little Dixie area of Oklahoma. The largest city and center of the region is Shreveport, Louisiana. Other major cities in the Ark-La-Tex include Tyler, Texas, Longview, Texas, Marshall, Texas, and Texarkana.
Most of the Ark-La-Tex is located in the Piney Woods, an ecoregion of dense forests of mixed deciduous and conifer flora. The forests are periodically punctuated by sloughs and bayous that are linked to larger bodies of water such as Caddo Lake or the Red River. The Ark-La-Tex covers roughly 46,500 square miles (120,000 km2) with an estimated 2010 population of 1,043,570.Battle of Palo Duro Canyon
The Battle of Palo Duro Canyon was a military confrontation and a significant United States victory during the Red River War. The battle occurred on September 28, 1874 when several U.S. Army regiments under Ranald S. Mackenzie attacked a large encampment of Plains Indians in Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle.Bayou Bartholomew
Bayou Bartholomew is the longest bayou in the world meandering approximately 364 miles (586 km) between the U.S. states of Arkansas and Louisiana. It contains over 100 aquatic species making it the second most diverse stream in North America. Known for its excellent bream, catfish, and crappie fishing, portions of the bayou are considered some of the best kept secrets of Arkansas anglers. It starts northwest of the city of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in the Hardin community, winds through parts of Jefferson, Lincoln, Desha, Drew, Chicot, and Ashley counties in Arkansas, and Morehouse Parish, Louisiana, and eventually dumps into the Ouachita River after passing by the northernmost tip of Ouachita Parish, near Sterlington, Louisiana. The bayou serves as the primary border separating the Arkansas Delta from the Arkansas Timberlands.
The present bayou bed was formed by the waters of the Arkansas River during a period when it was constantly changing courses. Approximately 1,800 to 2,200 years ago, the river diverted from the present area of the bayou, and the leisurely bayou began to develop in the old river bed. Until construction of railroad lines in the area in the late 19th century, it was the most important stream for transportation in the interior Delta. It allowed the development of one of the richest timber and agricultural industries in the Delta area.
Once a pristine stream, it is now polluted, log-jammed, and over-sedimented in certain sections. In 1995, Dr. Curtis Merrell of Monticello (Drew County) organized the Bayou Bartholomew Alliance to "restore and preserve the natural beauty" of the bayou. With help from the Alliance, many government organizations (such as the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Ducks Unlimited, and the public, the bayou may eventually reclaim some of its grandeur. Projects underway include monitoring water quality, planting trees for buffer zones, restoring riparian sites ruined by clear-cutting, trash removal, removing log jams, bank stabilization, building boat ramps, and encouraging no-till farming.Cane River
Cane River (Rivière aux Cannes) is a 30-mile-long (48 km) river formed from a portion of the Red River that is located in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it has been best known as the site of a historic Creole de couleur (multiracial) culture that has centers upon the National Historic Landmark Melrose Plantation and nearby St. Augustine Church St. Augustine Parish (Isle Brevelle) Church.Cossatot River
The Cossatot River is an 89-mile-long (143 km) river in Howard, Polk and Sevier counties in the U.S. state of Arkansas.The Cossatot begins in the Ouachita Mountains southeast of Mena, Arkansas. The river flows through the Ouachita National Forest and then in a generally southerly direction until it empties into Gillham Lake. After exiting Gillham Lake the river becomes leisurely until it joins with the Little River at the site where it empties into Millwood Lake.
Cossatot comes from an Indian term which translates roughly to skull crusher. The Cossatot is known as a difficult (class II - IV+) whitewater stream to canoeists and kayakers and a section at Cossatot Falls in Howard County, Arkansas has been called "the most challenging section of whitewater between the Smokies and the Rockies," though there are many more challenging runs in the state of Arkansas, such as Richland Creek, Crooked Creek or the Upper Buffalo (Hailstone run). An 11-mile (18-km) section including Cossatot Falls is designated as the Cossatot River State Park-Natural Area. Cossatot Falls is a series of back-to-back class III-IV+ rapids that drops around 40 feet in 1/8 of a mile. Rapid names are Cossatosser (class II+), Eye Opener, B.M.F. (class III), Washing Machine (class IV+), Whiplash, (class III+), and Shoulderbone (class II), with Deer Camp Rapid (class III), Devil's Hollow Rapid (class III+), and Devil's Hollow Falls (class IV) located downstream of the Falls area. Zigzag (Class III) and the Esses (class III) are other notable rapids on the Cossatot, located above the Falls. Whitewater rapid classes vary depending on water level. At certain higher levels near flood state, almost all of the Cossatot Falls turn into one long rapid.
The World War II fleet oiler USS Cossatot (AO-77) is named after this river.
Camping sites are located near the Cossatot Falls area, and at the nearby Brushy Creek Recreation area.
The Cossatot is listed as a National Wild and Scenic River and an Arkansas Natural and Scenic River.Coushatta massacre
The Coushatta massacre (1874) was the result of an attack by the White League, a paramilitary organization composed of white Southern Democrats, on Republican officeholders and freedmen in Coushatta, the parish seat of Red River Parish, Louisiana. They assassinated six white Republicans and five to 20 freedmen who were witnesses.The White League had organized to restore white supremacy by driving Republicans out of Louisiana, disrupting their political organizing, and intimidating or murdering freedmen. Like the Red Shirts and other "White Line" organizations, they were described as "the military arm of the Democratic Party."Greer County, Texas
Greer County, a county created by the Texas legislature on February 8, 1860 (and named for John Alexander Greer, Lieutenant Governor of Texas), was land claimed by both Texas and the United States.List of rivers of Oklahoma
This is a list of rivers in the state of Oklahoma, listed by drainage basin, alphabetically, and by size. In mean flow of water per second, the Arkansas is Oklahoma's largest river, followed by the Red River of the South and the Neosho River.Little Missouri River (Arkansas)
The Little Missouri River, or Little Mo, is a 147-mile-long (237 km) waterway that runs from the Ouachita Mountains of southwest Arkansas into the rolling hills area in the surrounding countryside.Ouachita River
The Ouachita River ( WAH-shi-tah) is a 605-mile-long (974 km) river that runs south and east through the U.S. states of Arkansas and Louisiana, joining the Tensas River to form the Black River near Jonesville, Louisiana. It is the 25th-longest river in the United States (by main stem).Palo Duro Canyon
Palo Duro Canyon is a canyon system of the Caprock Escarpment located in the Texas Panhandle near the cities of Amarillo and Canyon. As the second-largest canyon in the United States, it is roughly 120 mi (190 km) long and has an average width of 6 mi (9.7 km), but reaches a width of 20 mi (32 km) at places. Its depth is around 820 ft (250 m), but in some locations, it increases to 1,000 ft (300 m). Palo Duro Canyon (from the Spanish meaning "hard wood" or, more exactly, "hard stick") has been named "The Grand Canyon of Texas" both for its size and for its dramatic geological features, including the multicolored layers of rock and steep mesa walls similar to those in the Grand Canyon.Pike Expedition
The Pike Expedition (July 15, 1806 – July 1, 1807) was a military party sent out by President Thomas Jefferson and authorized by the United States government to explore the south and west of the recent Louisiana Purchase. Roughly contemporaneous with the Lewis and Clark Expedition, it was led by United States Army Lieutenant Zebulon Pike, Jr. who was promoted to captain during the trip. It was the first official American effort to explore the western Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains in present-day Colorado. Pike contacted several Native American tribes during his travels and informed them of the new US rule over the territory. The expedition documented the United States' discovery of Pikes Peak. After splitting up his men, Pike led the larger contingent to find the headwaters of the Red River. A smaller group returned safely to the US Army fort in St. Louis, Missouri before winter set in.
Pike's company made several errors and ended up in Spanish territory in present-day Southern Colorado, where the Americans built a fort to survive the winter. Captured by the Spanish and taken into Mexico in February, their travels through present-day New Mexico, Mexico, and Texas provided Pike with important data about Spanish military strength and civilian populations. Although he and most of his men were released because the nations were not at war, some of his soldiers were held in Mexican prisons for years, despite US objections. In 1810, Pike published an account of his expeditions, which was so popular that it was translated into French, German, and Dutch for publication in Europe.Randolph B. Marcy
Randolph Barnes Marcy (April 9, 1812 – November 22, 1887) was an officer in the United States Army, chiefly noted for his frontier guidebook, the Prairie Traveler (1859), based on his own extensive experience of pioneering in the west. This publication became a key handbook for the thousands of Americans wanting to cross the continent. In the Civil War, Marcy became chief of staff to his son-in-law George B. McClellan, and was later appointed Inspector General of the U.S. Army.Red River Expedition (1806)
The Red River Expedition, also known as the Freeman-Custis Expedition, Freeman Red River Expedition, Sparks Expedition, or officially as the Exploring Expedition of Red River in 1806, was one of the first civilian scientific expeditions to explore the Southwestern United States. It was ordered to find the headwaters of the Red River (Red River of the South) from the Mississippi River as a possible trading route to Santa Fe, then under Spanish colonial control in New Mexico; to contact Native American peoples for trading purposes; to collect data on flora, fauna, and topography, and map the country and river; and to assess the land for settlement. The Spanish officials intercepted the expedition 615 miles upriver, in what is now northeastern Texas, and turned it back before the party achieved all of its goals.Red River War
The Red River War was a military campaign launched by the United States Army in 1874 to remove the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Native American tribes from the Southern Plains and forcibly relocate them to reservations in Indian Territory. Lasting only a few months, the war had several army columns crisscross the Texas Panhandle in an effort to locate, harass, and capture highly mobile Indian bands. Most of the engagements were small skirmishes in which neither side suffered many casualties. The war wound down over the last few months of 1874, as fewer and fewer Indian bands had the strength and supplies to remain in the field. Though the last significantly sized group did not surrender until mid-1875, the war marked the end of free-roaming Indian populations on the southern Great Plains.Sulphur River
The Sulphur River is a 175-mile-long (282 km) river in northeast Texas and southwest Arkansas in the United States.Washita River
The Washita River is a river in the states of Texas and Oklahoma in the United States. The river is 295 miles (475 km) long and terminates at its confluence with the Red River, which is now part of Lake Texoma (33°55′N 96°35′W) on the Texas–Oklahoma border.Zebulon Pike
Zebulon Montgomery Pike (January 5, 1779 – April 27, 1813) was an American brigadier general and explorer for whom Pikes Peak in Colorado was renamed (from El Capitan). As a U.S. Army officer he led two expeditions under authority of third President Thomas Jefferson through the new Louisiana Purchase territory, first in 1805-06 to reconnoiter the upper northern reaches of the Mississippi River, and then in 1806-07 to explore the Southwest to the fringes of the northern Spanish-colonial settlements of New Mexico and Texas. Pike's expeditions coincided with other Jeffersonian expeditions, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806) and the Thomas Freeman and Peter Custis expedition up the Red River (1806).Pike's second expedition crossed the Rocky Mountains into what is now southern Colorado, which led to his capture by the Spanish colonial authorities near Santa Fe, who sent Pike and his men to Chihuahua (present-day Mexico), for interrogation. Later in 1807, Pike and some of his men were escorted by the Spanish through Texas and released near American territory in Louisiana.
In 1810, Pike published an account of his expeditions, a book so popular that it was translated into Dutch, French, and German languages, for publication in Europe. He later achieved the rank of brigadier general in the American Army and served during the War of 1812, until he was killed during the Battle of York, in April 1813, outside the then British colonial capital of Upper Canada (later Ontario).